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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: June 7, 2023 10:01 AM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb and Rep. Carol Kazeem, Rep. Benjamin V. Sanchez, Rep. Aerion Abney
To: All House members
Subject: Establishing the Incarcerated People’s Benefit Fund
Written into policies across our state, funds for incarcerated individuals house money generated by commissary purchases, telephone calls, internet service, and labor. However, not all of this money is used to benefit the individuals who pay into it. 
The Allegheny County Jail recently faced this issue, attempting to request $120,096 from the currently-named Inmate Welfare Fund to purchase a two-year contract for a digital law library. However, state law already requires that prisons and jails provide access to legal resources – a known cost that could and should already be part of the jail’s yearly budget. In 2019, the jail even purchased 5,050 suicide prevention blankets for $272,851.50 from the fund, with incarcerated individuals once again paying for something the county should be budgeting for.
This forthcoming legislation would address this issue by requiring state and local correctional facilities to establish Incarcerated People’s General Funds.  In addition, it would require that the money from commissary purchases, telephone and internet services, and labor by incarcerated individuals be placed in the fund to be used solely for the benefit, education, and welfare of individuals incarcerated in state or county facilities. Further, this legislation would require a yearly audit of each fund to ensure it is being used for its intended purpose.
As legislators, we must ensure that our justice-involved constituents are treated fairly and receive the rehabilitation and respect they need to successfully reenter their communities. 
Please join us in supporting this commonsense legislation to protect our Incarcerated People’s Benefit Fund from any further misuse and abuse.

Introduced as HB1649